Home  »  Don Quixote, Part 1  »  VI. Of a Wonderful Adventure, Achieved with Less Hazard Than Ever Any Other Knight Did Any, by the Valorous Don Quixote of the Mancha

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (1547–1616). Don Quixote, Part 1.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

The Third Book

VI. Of a Wonderful Adventure, Achieved with Less Hazard Than Ever Any Other Knight Did Any, by the Valorous Don Quixote of the Mancha

‘IT is not possible, my lord, but that these green herbs do argue that near unto this place must be some fountain or stream that watereth them, and therefore, I pray you, let us go a little farther, and we shall meet that which may mitigate the terrible thirst that afflicts us, which sets us, questionless, in more pain than did our hunger.’ This counsel was allowed by Don Quixote; and therefore, leading Rozinante by the bridle, and Sancho his ass by the halter, after laying up the reversion of their supper, they set on through the plain, only guided by their guess, for the night was so dark as they could not see a jot. And scarce had they travelled two hundred paces, when they heard a great noise of water, as if it fell headlong from some great and steep rock. The noise did cheer them very much, and standing to hear from whence it sounded, they heard unawares another noise, which watered all the content they conceived before, specially in Sancho, who, as I have noted, was naturally very fearful and of little spirit. They heard, I say, certain blows struck with proportion, with a kind of rattling of irons and chains, which, accompanied by the furious sound of the water, might strike terror into any other heart but Don Quixote’s.

The night, as we said, was dark, and they happened to enter in among certain tall and lofty trees, whose leaves, moved by a soft gale of wind, made a fearful and still noise; so that the solitude, situation, darkness, and the noise of the water, and trembling of the leaves concurring, did breed horror and affright; but specially seeing that the blows never ceased, the wind slept not, nor the morning approached, whereunto may be added, that they knew not the place where they were. But Don Quixote, accompanied with his valiant heart, leaped on Rozinante, and embracing his buckler, brandished his lance, and said: ‘Friend Sancho, I would have thee know that I was born, by the disposition of Heaven, in this our age of iron, to resuscitate in it that of gold, or the golden world, as it is called. I am he for whom are reserved all dangerous, great and valorous feats. I say again, that I am he which shall set up again those of the Round Table, the Twelve Peers of France, and the Nine Worthies. I am he who shall cause the acts to be forgotten of those Platires, Tablantes, Olivantes, and Tirantes, the Phebuses, Belianises, with all the crew of the famous knight-errant of times past, doing in this wherein I live, such great and wonderful feats of arms as shall obscure the bravest that ever they achieved. Thou notest well, faithful and loyal squire, the darkness of this night, the strange silence, the deaf and confused trembling of these trees, the dreadful noise of that water in whose search we come, which seems to throw itself headlong down from the steep mountains of the moon; the inceasable blows which do still wound our ears; all which together, and every one apart, are able to strike terror, fear, and amazement into the very mind of Mars; how much more in his that is not accustomed to the like chances and adventures? Yet all this which I have depainted to thee are inciters and rousers of my mind, which now causeth my heart almost to burst in my breast, with the desire it hath to try this adventure, how difficult soever it shows itself. Wherefore, tie my horse’s girths a little straiter; and farewell! Here in this place thou mayst expect me three days and no more. And if I shall not return in that space, thou mayst go back to our village, and from thence (for my sake) to Toboso, where thou shalt say to my incomparable Lady Dulcinea, that her captive knight died by attempting things that might make him worthy to be called hers.’

When Sancho heard his lord speak these words, he began to weep, with the greatest compassion of the world, and say unto him, ‘Sir, I see no reason why you should undertake this fearful adventure. It is now night, and nobody can perceive us; we may very well cross the way, and apart from ourselves danger, although we should therefore want drink these three days. And, seeing none behold us, there will be much less any one to take notice of our cowardice; the rather because I heard ofttimes the curate of our village, whom you know very well, preach, “that he which seeks the danger, perisheth therein”; so that it is not good to tempt God, undertaking such a huge affair, out of which you cannot escape but by miracle; and let those which Heaven hath already wrought for you suffice, in delivering you from being tossed in a coverlet, as I was, and bringing you away a victor, free and safe, from among so many enemies as accompanied the dead man. And when all this shall not move or soften your hard heart, let this move it, to think and certainly believe, that scarce shall you depart from this place, when through very fear I shall give up my soul to him that pleaseth to take it. I left my country, wife and children to come and serve you, hoping thereby to be worth more, and not less; but, as covetousness breaks the sack, so hath it also torn my hopes, seeing when they were most pregnant and lively to obtain that unlucky and accursed island, which you promised me so often, I see that, in exchange and pay thereof, you mean to forsake me here in a desert, out of all frequentation. For God’s sake, do not me such a wrong, my lord; and if you will not wholly desist from your purpose, yet defer it at least till the morning; for as my little skill that I learned when I was a shepherd, telleth me, the dawning is not three hours off; for the mouth of the fish is over the head, and maketh midnight in the line of the left arm.’ How canst thou, Sancho,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘see where is the line, or that mouth, or that ail of which you speakest, seeing the night is so dark that one star alone appeareth not?’ ‘That is true,’ quoth Sancho; ‘but fear hath eyes which can see things under the ground, and much more in the skies. And besides, we may gather, by good discourse, that the day is not far off.’ ‘Let it be as little off as it lists,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘it shall never be recorded of me that either tears or prayers could ever dissuade me from performing the duty of a knight; and therefore, good Sancho, hold thy peace; for God, who hath inspired me to attempt this unseen and fearful adventure, will have an eye to my weal, and also to comfort thy sorrow. And that thou hast therefore to do is to make strait my girths, and remain here; for I will return here shortly, either alive or dead.’

Sancho, perceiving his lord’s last resolution, and how little his tears, counsels, or prayers could avail, resolved to profit himself a little of his wit, and make him if he could to expect until day; and so, when he did fasten the girths, he softly, without being felt, tied his ass’ halter to both Rozinante’s legs so fast, that when Don Quixote thought to depart, he could not, for that his horse could not go a step, but leaping. Sancho, seeing the good success of his guile, said, ‘Behold, sir, how Heaven, moved by my tears and prayers, hath ordained that Rozinante should not go a step; and if you will be still contending, and spurring, and striking him, you will do nothing but enrage fortune, and, as the proverb says, but “spurn against the prick.”’ Don Quixote grew wood at this, and yet the more he spurred him he was the less able to go; wherefore, without perceiving the cause of his horse’s stay, he resolved at last to be quiet, and expect either till the morning or else till Rozinante would please to depart, believing verily that the impediment came of some other cause, and not from Sancho; and therefore said unto him, ‘Since it is so, Sancho, that Rozinante cannot stir him, I am content to tarry till the dawning, although her tardiness cost me some tears.’ ‘You shall have no cause to weep,’ replied Sancho; ‘for I will entertain you telling you of histories until it be day, if you will not alight and take a nap upon these green herbs, as knights-errant are wont, that you may be the fresher and better able to morrow to attempt that monstrous adventure which you expect.’ ‘What dost thou call alighting, or sleeping? quoth Don Quixote. ‘Am I peradventure one of those knights that repose in time of danger? Sleep thou, who wast born to sleep, or do what thou please; for I will do that which I shall see fittest for my pretence.’ ‘Good sir, be not angry,’ quoth Sancho; ‘for I did not speak with that intention.’ And so, drawing near unto him, he set one of his hands on the pommel of the saddle, and the other hinder in such sort that he rested embracing his lord’s left thigh, not daring to depart from thence the breadth of a finger, such was the fear he had of those blows, which all the while did sound without ceasing.

Then Don Quixote commanded him to tell some tale to pass away the time, as he had promised; and Sancho said he would, if the fear of that which he heard would suffer him. ‘Yet,’ quoth he, ‘for all this I will encourage myself to tell you one, whereon, if I can hit aright, and that I be not interrupted, is the best history that ever you heard; and be you attentive, for now I begin. It was that it was, the good that shall befall be for us all, and the harm for him that searches it. And you must be advertised, good sir, that the beginning that ancient men gave to their tales was not of ordinary things, and it was a sentence of Cato, the Roman Conrozin, which says, “And the harm be for him that searches it,” which is as fit for this place as a ring for a finger, to the end that you may be quiet, and not to go seek your own harm to any place, but that we turn us another way, for nobody compelleth us to follow this, where so many fears do surprise us.’ ‘Prosecute this tale, Sancho,’ said Don Quixote, ‘and leave the charge of the way we must go to me.’ ‘I say then,’ quoth Sancho, ‘that in a village of Estremadura there was a shepherd, I would say a goatherd; and as I say of my tale, this goatherd was called Lope Ruyz, and this Lope Ruyz was enamoured on a shepherdess who was called Torralva, the which shepherdess called Torralva was daughter to a rich herdman, and this rich herdman—’ ‘If thou tellest thy tale, Sancho, after that manner,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘repeating everything twice that thou sayst, thou wilt not end it these two days: tell it succinctly, and like one of judgment, or else says nothing.’ ‘Of the very same fashion that I tell are all tales told in my country, and I know not how to tell it any other way, nor is it reason that you should ask of me to make new customs.’ ‘Tell it as thou pleasest,’ quoth Don Quixote; ‘for since fortune will not otherwise but that I must hear thee, go forward.’ ‘So that, my dear sir of my soul,’ quoth Sancho, ‘that, as I have said already, this shepherd was in love with Torralva the shepherdess, who was a round wench, scornful, and drew somewhat near to a man, for she had mochachoes; for methinks I see her now before my face.’ ‘Belike, then,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘thou knewest her?’ ‘I did not know her,’ quoth Sancho, ‘but he that told me the tale said it was so certain and true, that I might, when I told it to any other, very well swear and affirm that I had seen it all myself. So that, days passing and days coming, the devil, who sleeps not, and that troubles all, wrought in such sort, as the love that the shepherd bore to the shepherdess turned into man-slaughter and ill-will; and the cause was, according to bad tongues, a certain quantity of little jealousies that she gave him, such as they passed the line, and came to the forbidden. And the shepherd did hate her so much afterward, that he was content to leave all that country, because he would not see her, and go where his eyes should never look upon her. Torralva, that saw herself disdained by Lope, did presently love him better than ever she did before.’ ‘That is a natural condition of women,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘to disdain those that love them, and to affect those which hate them. Pass forward, Sancho.’ ‘It happened,’ quoth Sancho, ‘that the shepherd set his purpose in execution, and, gathering up his goats, he travelled through the fields of Estremadura, to pass into the kingdom of Portugal. Torralva, which knew it well, followed him afoot and bare-legged, afar off, with a pilgrim’s staff in her hand, and a wallet hanging at her neck, where they say that she carried a piece of a looking-glass, and another of a comb, and I know not what little bottles of changes for her face. But let her carry what she carries, for I will not put myself now to verify that; only I’ll say, that they say, that the shepherd arrived with his goats to pass over the river Guadiana, which in that season was swollen very much, and overflowed the banks; and at the side where he came there was neither boat nor bark, nor any to pass himself or his goats over the river; for which he was very much grieved, because he saw that Torralva came very near, and she would trouble him very much with her prayers and tears. But he went so long looking up and down, that he spied a fisher, who had so little a boat as it could only hold one man and a goat at once, and for all that he spake and agreed with him to pass himself and three hundred goats that he had over the river. The fisherman entered into the boat, and carried over one goat; he returned, and passed over another, and turned back again, and passed over another. Keep you, sir, good account of the goats that the fisherman ferries over; for if one only be forgotten, the tale will end, and it will not be possible to tell one word more of it. Follow on, then, and I say that the landing-place on the other side was very dirty and slippery, which made the fisherman spend much time coming to and fro; yet, for all that, he turned for another goat, and another, and another.’

‘Make account,’ quoth Don Quixote, that thou hast passed them all over; for otherwise thou wilt not make an end of passing them in a whole year’s space.’ ‘How many,’ said Sancho, ‘are already passed over?’ ‘What a devil know I?’ said Don Quixote. ‘See there that which I said,’ quoth Sancho, ‘that you should keep good account. By Jove, the tale is ended, therefore; for there is no passing forward.’ ‘How can that be?’ said Don Quixote. ‘Is it so greatly of the essence of this history to know the goats that are passed so exactly and distinctly that if one of the number be missed thou canst not follow on with thy tale?’ ‘No, sir, in no sort,’ said Sancho; ‘for as soon as I demanded of you to tell me how many goats passed over, and that you answered me you knew not, in that very instant it went from me out of my memory all that was to be told, and in faith it was of great virtue and content.’ ‘So, then,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘the tale is ended?’ ‘It is a certainly ended as is my mother,’ quoth Sancho, ‘Surely,’ replied Don Quixote, ‘thou hast recounted one of the rarest tales or histories that any one of the world could think upon, and that such a manner of telling or finishing a tale was never yet seen, or shall be seen again; although I never expected any other thing from thy good discourse. But I do not greatly marvel, for perhaps those senseless strokes have troubled thine understanding.’ ‘All that may be,’ said Sancho; ‘but I know, in the discourse of my tale, there is no more to be said, but that there it ends, where the error of counting the goats that were wafted over the river begins.’ ‘Let it end in a good hour where it lists,’ answered Don Quixote, ‘and let us try whether Rozinante can yet stir himself.’ Then did he turn again to give him the spurs, and he to leap as he did at the first and rest anew, being unable to do other, he was so well shackled.

It happened about this time, that, either through the cold of the morning, or that Sancho had eaten at supper some lenitive meats, or that it was a thing natural (and that is most credible), he had a desire to do that which others could not do for him; but such was the fear that entered into his heart as he dared not depart from his lord the breadth of a straw, and to think to leave that which he had desired undone was also impossible; therefore, his resolution in that perplexed exigent (be it spoken with pardon) was this: he loosed his right hand, wherewithal he held fast the hinder part of the saddle, and therewithal very softly, and without any noise, he untied the cod-piece point wherewithal his breeches were only supported, which, that being let slip, did presently fall down about his legs like a pair of bolts; after this, lifting up his shirt the best he could, he exposed his buttocks to the air, which were not the least. This being done, which, as he thought, was the chiefest thing requisite to issue out of that terrible anguish and plunge, he was suddenly troubled with a greater, to wit, that he knew not how to disburden himself without making a noise; which to avoid, first he shut his teeth close, lifted up his shoulders, and gathered up his breath as much as he might; yet, notwithstanding all these diligences, he was so unfortunate, that he made a little noise at the end, much different from that which made him so fearful. Don Quixote heard it, and said, ‘What noise is that, Sancho?’ ‘I know it not, sir,’ quoth he; ‘I think it be some new thing for adventures; or rather, disventures never begin with a little.’ Then turned he once again to try his hap, and it succeeded so well that, without making any rumour or noise but that which he did at the first, he found himself free of the loading that troubled him so much.

But Don Quixote having the sense of smelling as perfect as that of his hearing, and Sancho stood so near, or rather joined to him, as the vapours did ascend upward, almost by a direct line, he could not excuse himself but that some of them must needs touch his nose. And scarce had they arrived, but that he occurred to the usual remedy, and stopped it very well between his fingers, and then said with a snaffing voice, ‘Methinks, Sancho, that thou art much afraid.’ ‘I am indeed,’ replied Sancho; ‘but wherein, I pray you, do you perceive it now more than ever?’ ‘In that thou smellest now more than ever,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘and that not of amber.’ ‘It may be so,’ quoth Sancho; ‘yet the fault is not mine, but yours, which bring me, at such unseasonable hours, through so desolate and fearful places.’ ‘I pray thee, friend, retire thyself two or three steps back,’ quoth Don Quixote, holding his fingers still upon his nose, ‘and from henceforth have more care of thy person, and of the respect thou owest to mine; for I see the overmuch familiarity that I use with thee hath engendered this contempt.’ ‘I dare wager,’ quoth Sancho, ‘that you think I have done somewhat with my person that I ought not.’ ‘Friend Sancho,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘it is the worse to stir it thus.’ And thus, in these and such like conversation, the master and the man passed over the night. And Sancho, seeing that the morning approach, he loosed Rozinante very warily, and tied up his hose. Rozinante, feeling himself (although he was not naturally very courageous), he seemed to rejoice, and began to beat the ground with his hoofs; for (by his leave) he could never yet curvet. Don Quixote, seeing that Rozinante could now stir, accounted it to be a good sign, and an encouragement of him to attempt that timorous adventure.

By this Aurora did display her purple mantle over the face of heaven, and everything appeared distinctly, which made Don Quixote perceive that he was among a number of tall chestnut-trees, which commonly make a great shadow. He heard likewise those incessable strokes, but could not espy the cause of them; wherefore, giving Rozinante presently the spur, and turning back again to Sancho, to bid him farewell, he commanded him to stay for him there three days at the longest, and that, if he returned not after that space, he should make full account that Jove was pleased he should end his days in that dangerous adventure. He repeated to him again the embassage and errand he should carry in his behalf to his Lady Dulcinea; and that, touching the reward of his services, he should not fear anything; for he had left his testament, made before he departed from his village, where he should find himself gratified touching all that which pertained to his hire, according to the rate of the time he had served; but if God would bring him off from that adventure safe and sound, and without danger, he might fully account to receive the promised island.

Here Sancho began anew to weep, hearing again the pitiful discourses of his good lord, and determined not to abandon him until the last trance and end of that affair; and out of these tears and honourable resolution of Sancho, the author of this history collects, that it is like he was well born, or at the very least an old Christian, whose grief did move his master a little, but not so much as he should show the least argument of weakness; but rather, dissembling it the best he could, he followed on his way towards the way of the water, and that where the strokes were heard. Sancho followed him afoot, leading, as he was wont, his ass by the halter, who was the inseparable fellow of his prosperous or adverse fortunes.

And having travelled a good space among these chestnut and shady trees, they came out into a little plain that stood at the foot of certain steep rocks, from whose tops did precipitate itself a great fall of water. There were at the foot of those rocks certain houses, so ill made as they rather seemed ruins of buildings than houses; from whence, as they perceived, did issue the fearful rumour and noise of the strokes, which yet continued.

Rozinante at this dreadful noise did start, and being made quiet by his lord, Don Quixote did by little and little draw near to the houses, recommending himself on the way most devoutly to his Lady Dulcinea, and also to Jove, desiring him that he would not forget him. Sancho never departed from his lord’s side, and stretched out his neck and eyes as far as he might through Rozinante his legs, to see if he could perceive that which held him so fearful and suspended. And after they had travelled about a hundred paces more, at the doubling of a point of a mountain, they saw the very cause patent and open (for there could be none other) of that so hideous and fearful a noise that had kept them all the night so doubtful and affrighted, and was (O reader! if thou wilt not take it in bad part) six iron maces that fulled cloth, which, with their interchangeable blows, did form that marvellous noise.

When Don Quixote saw what it was, he waxed mute and all ashamed. Sancho beheld him, and saw that he hung his head on his breast with tokens that he was somewhat ashamed. Don Quixote looked also on his squire, and saw his cheeks swollen with laughter, giving withal evident signs that he was in danger to burst if he vented not that passion; whereat all Don Quixote’s melancholy little prevailing, he could not, beholding Sancho, but laugh also himself. And when Sancho saw his master begin the play, he let slip the prisoner in such violent manner, to press his sides hardly with both his hands to save himself from bursting. Four times he ended, and other four he renewed his laughter, with as great impulse and force as at the first; whereat Don Quixote was wonderfully enraged, but chiefly hearing him say in gibing manner, ‘I would have thee know, friend Sancho, that I was born, by the disposition of Heaven, in this our age of iron, to renew in it that of gold, or the golden world. I am he for whom are reserved all dangerous, great, and valorous feats.’ And in this sort he went repeating all or the greatest part of the words Don Quixote had said the first time that they heard the timorous blows. Don Quixote perceiving that Sancho mocked him, grew so ashamed and angry withal, that, lifting up the end of his lance, he gave him two such blows on the back, as if he had received them on his pate, would have freed his master from paying him any wages, if it were not to his heirs. Sancho, seeing that he gained so ill earnest by his jests, fearing that his master should go onward with it, he said unto him, with very great submission, ‘Pacify yourself, good sir; for, by Jove, I did but jest.’ ‘But why dost thou jest? I tell thee I do not jest,’ quoth Don Quixote. ‘Come here, master merry-man; thinkest thou that, as those are iron maces to full cloth, if they were some other dangerous adventure, that I have not shown resolution enough to undertake and finish it? Am I by chance obliged, being, as I am, a knight, to know and distinguish noises, and perceive which are of a fulling-mill, or no? And more it might (as it is true), that I never saw any before, as thou hast done, base villain that thou art! born and brought up among the like: if not, make thou that these six maces be converted into giants, and cast them in my beard one by one, or all together; and when I do not turn all their heels up, then mock me as much as thou pleasest.’

‘No more, good sir,’ quoth Sancho; ‘for I confess I have been somewhat too laughsome. But tell me, I pray you, now that we are in peace, as God shall deliver you out of all adventures that may befall you, as whole and sound as He hath done out of this, hath the not great fear we were in been a good subject of laughter, and a thing worthy the telling?—at least I; for of you I am certain that you do not yet know what fear or terror is.’ ‘I do not deny,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘but that which befel us is worthy of laughter; yet ought it not to be recounted, forasmuch as all persons are not so discreet as to know how to discern one thing from another, and set everything in his right point.’ ‘You know, at leastwise,’ quoth Sancho, ‘how to set your javelin in his point when, pointing at my pate, you hit me on the shoulders, thanks be to God, and to the diligence I put in going aside. But farewell it, for all will away in the bucking; and I have heard old folk say “that man loves thee well who makes thee to weep.” And besides, great lords are wont, after a bad word which they say to one of their serving-men, to bestow on him presently a pair of hose. But I know not yet what they are wont to give them after blows, if it be not that knights-errant give, after the bastinado, islands, or kingdoms on the continent.’ ‘The die might run so favourably,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘as all thou hast said might come to pass; and therefore pardon what is done, since thou art discreet, and knowest that a man’s first motions are not in his hand. And be advertised of one thing from henceforward (to the end to abstain, and carry thyself more respectfully in thy over-much liberty of speech with me), that in as many books of chivalry as I have read, which are infinite, I never found that any squire spoke so much with his lord as thou dost with thine; which, in good sooth, I do attribute to thy great indiscretion and mine; thine, in respecting me so little; mine, in not making myself to be more regarded. Was not Gandalin, Amadis de Gaul’s squire, earl of the Firm Island? And yet it is read of him, that he spoke to his lord with his cap in his hand, his head bowed, and his body bended (more Turcesco). What, then, shall we say of Gasabel, Don Galaor’s squire, who was so silent, as to declare us the excellency thereof, his name is but once repeated in all that so great and authentic a history? Of all which my words, Sancho, thou must infer, that thou must make difference between the master and the man, the lord and his serving-man, the knight and his squire: so that from this day forward we must proceed with more respect, not letting the clew run so much; for after what way soever I grow angry with thee, it will be bad for the pitcher. The rewards and benefits that I have promised thee will come in their time; and if they do not, thy wages cannot be lost, as I have already said to thee.’

‘You say very well,’ quoth Sancho; ‘but fain would I learn (in case that the time of rewards came not, and that I must of necessity trust to my wages) how much a knight-errant’s squire did gain in times past? or if they did agree for months, or by days, as mason’s men?’ ‘I do not think,’ quoth Don Quixote, ‘that they went by the hire, but only trusted to their lord’s courtesy. And if I have assigned wages on thee in my sealed testament, which I left at home, it was to prevent the worst; because I know not yet what success chivalry may have in these our so miserable times, and I would not have my soul suffer in the other world for such a minuity as is thy wages; for thou must understand that in this world there is no state so dangerous as that of knights-errant.’ ‘That is most true,’ replied Sancho, ‘seeing the only sound of the maces of a fulling-mill could trouble and disquiet the heart of so valiant a knight as you are. But you may be sure that I will not hereafter once unfold my lips to jest at your doings, but only to honour you as my master and natural lord.’ ‘By doing so,’ replied Don Quixote, ‘thou shalt live on the face of the earth; for, next to our parents, we are bound to respect our masters as if they were our fathers.’